WR Public Forum on 'Spain 1936-37: the Italian communist left and the Friends of Durruti'

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On Saturday 8 July the ICC will be holding a public meeting in London (2pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn, WC1). The meeting will be on the war in Spain, which began 70 years ago, with Franco’s attempted coup on July 19 1936.

We have advertised the meeting in our paper World Revolution as ‘Spain 1936-37: the Italian communist left and the Friends of Durruti’.

We will start by presenting the analysis made by the Italian communist left of the events of July 1936, which can be summarised as follows: the Francoist putsch was countered by the working class, fighting with its own methods: mass strike, fraternisation with the troops, self-arming of the workers. But this initial proletarian response was very quickly diverted from its logical goal of insurrection against the bourgeois state towards a struggle in defence of the Popular Front; and, in a global context of growing military conflicts, the ‘civil’ war in Spain was rapidly transformed into an inter-imperialist war, a dress rehearsal for the second world massacre.

Against the mobilisation of the working class on this terrain, the Italian left refused to support the Republic and called for class struggle against both camps. In this they were extremely (though not totally) isolated, because the majority of those who called themselves revolutionaries came out in one way or another with the position of ‘fight fascism first, then deal with the Republic’ – in short, with a more or less open support for the Republic. This famously included the CNT in Spain, which sent ministers into the Republican state.

We will then focus on the events of May 1937 and the Friends of Durruti group. For the Italian left, the strikes and barricades ‘behind the lines’ in Barcelona in May 37 were a striking confirmation of its analysis: the working class had returned to its own methods of struggle against the whole of the Popular Front regime. The Friends of Durruti group, which had emerged from within the CNT as a working class reaction to the official betrayals, attempted to live up to the responsibilities of a revolutionary organisation during these events. The Friends of Durruti was a genuine expression of the wider revolutionary aspirations which had come to the surface in July 1936 and which made their last stand in May 1937. At the same time it was unable to make a complete break from the CNT and anarchist ideology, which prevented it from drawing all the necessary conclusions from this experience.

We think that this meeting provides an opportunity to hold a constructive debate about the lessons of these historic events. We naturally encourage all our contacts and sympathisers to attend, and at the same time invite those less familiar with, or even highly critical of, left communist positions to come along and put forward their views. We will ensure maximum time for discussion and for the presentation of alternative interpretations of the war and the role of the Friends of Durruti group.

Contacts and readers of our press who are unable to attend the meeting are invited to send e-mails or letters dealing with the subject of the forum. These will be read out and discussed at the meeting.

We particularly encourage participants on the libcom.org forums to respond to this invitation, both by making responses on this thread and by coming to the meeting. Again, we will read out and discuss contributions to the meeting posted on this thread by those who are unable to come to the meeting to put forward their views in person.

For those that are interested in preparing for this discussion we have a number of articles on Spain 36-37 and the Friends of Durruti collected here.

The following articles have been put online especially to encourage reflection and discussion on these questions:

Bilan 36: The events of 19 July (1936)
Spain 1936: The Myth of the Anarchist Collectives


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